Meet the Davidson Sophomore Who Ran the Boston Marathon for Charity

Brigit Donohue, a good friend of mine, just ran a marathon as a sophomore in college. Watching her go through training over the last few months in preparation inspired me because she always had a smile on her face and you could just tell how enthusiastic and committed she was to this race. I walked through some Q&A with Donahue and wanted to lace up my own running shoes right after.


1. What sparked your interest in the Boston marathon?

I am from central Massachusetts and growing up, Marathon Monday was always a big deal. I used to think those who ran were absolutely crazy […] I ran cross country in high school, but never did more than seven miles, [but] by the end of my freshman year, I set my sights on Boston 2017.   


2. I know you ran for a charity and have been raising money all year- what is the story behind this charity and the reason why you were so drawn to it?

I ran for Dana Farber Cancer Institute mainly because of a personal connection. My mom’s best friend was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2015 and was successfully treated at Dana Farber. As a whole, the Dana Farber team raised $5 million this year for […] cancer research. With a decrease in government funding in recent years, Dana Farber and other research institutions rely on fundraising to conduct revolutionary research for new targeted treatments. I raised money mainly by contacting close friends and family.


3. What is your background in running and before training for the marathon what type of runner were you? 

Before training, I was a very casual runner (ran cross country in high school). I ran four to six miles five times a week. I was never a big fan of racing after high school because it took the relaxation out of running, and races always got me so anxious.


4. How was your training for the marathon? Highlight some of your worst and best moments.

Training for the marathon was a major time commitment, but something I found great joy in. The Dana Farber team held weekly group runs in Boston, and I was able to attend one of them over winter break. I started training in mid-December, and the run I attended was on New Years Day. We ran 21 miles of the marathon route, and this was definitely one of the best moments of training. Seeing the camaraderie of the team and just how passionate every runner was about Dana Farber reminded me why I was running the marathon and what I was fundraising for.

I can’t say there were too many low points of training. I remained healthy throughout the 18 weeks of training, with the exception of a few infected blisters on my feet.


5. Mention some thoughts or experiences you had during the run- people around you, how you felt, you prepared you felt etc. (Maybe even include day before or moments before and how you felt/ things you experienced)

The day before the marathon I attended the Dana Farber pasta dinner. Throughout training, I was paired with an “in-memory family” that lost their seven-year-old son, Michael, to cancer this past summer. At the dinner, they played a slideshow of all the children treated at Dana Farber that had passed away. Undoubtedly every individual in the room teared up at this moment and we were all reminded why we were running 26.2 the next day.

On the day of the marathon, I arrived in Hopkinton (the approximate starting point of the race) at seven am and had four hours until it was my time to race. As you might imagine, this amount of time only intensifies your nervousness and makes you reconsider if you’ve prepared enough for the race. Getting to the start line was a process in and of itself, with roughly 8,000 runners in Wave four [with me]. I went out pretty fast, partially due to my excitement and partially due to the fact that the first five miles of the marathon are downhill. My 7:50 pace was shot by the time I hit Wellesley College at the half-marathon mark. Mile 16, the sun came out and I still had to face [some] dreaded […] hills. Luckily, a large crew of my family was at mile 16, and my best friend from high school was at mile 17, and this support really lifted my spirits. Heartbreak Hill at mile 21 was just as bad as everyone says it is. I had my name written on my left arm, and when as I began to walk up half of heartbreak, a group of BC college students started to chant my name – and I will never forget this moment! They likely had no idea how much that fired me up to finish the race strong, but it made a huge impact. I ran the last 5 miles of the race without stopping – easily the hardest physical and mental challenge of my life. I was searching for the Citgo sign during those last miles, because I knew when I passed that sign I would only be 1.2 miles away from the finish. Running the final stretch down Boylston street was definitely the most memorable part of the race. The massive crowds on both sides of the road cheering your name.


6. What were your thoughts after you completed the marathon? Will you run it again?

After crossing the finish line, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions – ranging from exhaustion to euphoria. I probably would have cried if my energy hadn’t been completely spent on the course. They make you walk about a mile after finishing to get water/food/your medal, and it was incredibly difficult to stand at that point, let alone continue to walk. When I reached the family meeting area and saw my parents, it was such a good feeling. I was finally able to sit and slowly regained life. Realizing what I had accomplished and seeing all of my hard work pay off after several months of fundraising and training made the experience so special. I would do it again in a heartbeat, without question. April 16, 2018 is fast approaching!!!


7. Some advice for other women who are training for marathons, half marathons, 5ks whatever it may be….

You can do it! If you want anything bad enough, you can achieve it. At mile 16 of the marathon, I doubted myself. My legs were shot from running so hard at the start, the sun was out and there was no shade on the course, and I saw a big hill ahead. At these moments, just take a minute, remember why you are doing what you are doing, remember how hard you trained for this, and believe in yourself. Pain is temporary, but achievements will be with you forever – head up, wings out, and fly!  


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